Garden Birdwatching:              

I keep a copy of the records that I send to the BTO each quarter and looking back over 5 years can be quite interesting. I find that I have recorded 34 species in total, which is peanuts compared to the likes of Chris Mead, but I am more than happy to have seen Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Tawny Owl, Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and Green Woodpecker in my garden. The heavy snow of Feb.1996 brought my first (and only) Bramblings. More regular visitors include wintering Blackcap, Nuthatch and Siskin.

Less regular visitors such as these are recorded on one form; the 10 most common garden visitors on another. Counts are required only for the common ones, up to a maximum seen for the week; e.g. a maximum of  4+ for Robin, Blackbird and Dunnock.  They are recorded by a line in the appropriate box on the form. For Blue tit, Great tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Collared Dove the maximum is 5+  but for Starling and House Sparrow the count goes “1-5, 6-10, 11-20, 21+”. I seldom record more than 5 Sparrows, but quite often reach 21 Starlings. Up to 12 Blackbirds appear before first light on winter mornings.

My records show that it is only since the summer of 1998 that I have regularly recorded 5+ Collared Doves, and  since the summer of 1999 I have often seen up to 20+ (in a garden area of 10metres square!). This increase must be linked to the fact that the Doves nested in Potts Wood, just 250 metres away, for the first time last summer, - but which came first? The doves were clearing my bird tables so quickly that I had to change to a food with no cereal, and now I protect one of the tables with a wire cage to give the smaller species a fair turn.

Comparing gardens can give surprises. Five houses up the road (and that much nearer the wood) the Pollock’s garden often has Jays, which mine seldom sees, yet they have seen no Blackcaps this winter, while mine has had at least one daily since mid-December, with a maximum of three for a time. The Long-tailed tits usually begin to visit my garden in early January, but are several weeks earlier at the Pollock’s. Fieldfares are very selective; they visit my neighbours’ apple trees each year, while my little tree is ignored.

Jill Blackburn

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